AUGUSTA — Even as she readies stacks of applications to be filled out by those seeking the Salvation Army’s aid at Christmas, Lt. Anagelys Cruz worries about her family and friends from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, caught in a struggle for food, clean water and electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Her mother, father, and 7-year-old brother Luis, are safe, and their concrete home is dry now; but they face hours-long lines for basics such as gasoline, water and the maximum 10 groceries. Her father has been getting up at 4 a.m. to line up to get into a bank to get the $200 maximum cash for necessities. Only cash and checks can be used for payments because the ATMs and the store registers need electricity to operate.

The family drives 15 to 20 minutes to get a cellphone signal when they want to contact her.

“It’s not like the same communication,” Cruz said Friday during an interview in The Salvation Army Capital Corps headquarters on Eastern Avenue. “We used to talk three to four times a day. It’s hard. You don’t know how they’re doing.”

Cruz, 26, who lives in Augusta, has gotten sporadic updates from her friends, cousins, aunts and uncles as well.

Soon she will see conditions there herself. The divisional headquarters of the Salvation Army is sending Cruz to Puerto Rico for a two-week stint — maybe longer — to help with relief efforts underway there and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.


In Puerto Rico, those efforts are concentrated in San Juan, Loiza, Fajardo, Humacao, Guayama, Ponce, Arecibo, Mayaguez, Penuelas and Caguas, according to a news release from the Portland office.

“In total, nearly 273,400 meals and snacks have been distributed to those in need since the impact of Hurricane Irma,” the organization noted.

Retired Maj. David Dickson, who served in the Capital Region Corps in Waterville and Augusta until retiring to Biddeford in the summer of 2014, is on standby to deploy to St. Croix.

Cruz might be able to connect briefly with her family. Her parents and brothers have tickets to fly on Oct. 20 to Florida, where they are likely to relocate and where many members of her father’s family now live.

Her father, Angel Cruz, is a retired police officer. Her mother, Ana Montijo, is a retired teacher.

Prior to getting the call to go to Puerto Rico, Anagelys Cruz had planned to spend some of her vacation days with them in the Orlando area.


“I’ve set my life apart for God and people,” she said. “I’ll sacrifice my vacation and (a visit to my) family because I want to do what God is calling me to do. I’m a pastor. This is my work. This is my passion — to give hope to the hopeless.”

She’s still learning about the devastation that took the lives of 34 people in Puerto Rico. Twelve days after Hurricane Maria, a friend of Cruz’s put a note on Facebook saying that the friend’s mother had lost everything. “It’s going to take a long time to rebuild everything,” Cruz said.

There’s no language barrier for her. Cruz was born and raised in Arecibo, so she is particularly well-suited to the task.

In addition to offering physical aid and directing people in Puerto Rico to the correct agencies for specific things, she is tasked with bringing spiritual comfort.

“I’m just going to be there to listen to them,” she said. “Of course, I’m a pastor. I can ask if they want me to pray for them.” If they say no, she will not insist.

“We want to help individuals 100 percent.” Cruz said. “We want to know that they’re in peace, that they’re good, that they can vent their problems.”


She has told her family that people in Puerto Rico need her more than they do at the moment, and was happy to hear her younger brother practice his English in their latest phone call. She said he has found it difficult with some of the rationing.

She has worked as an associate corps officer in the Capital Region Salvation Army Corps for the past year. Her responsibilities, along with signing people up to receive aid at Christmas, include corps finances, human resources, the holiness meeting and the youth ministry program on Thursdays.

The Salvation Army Capital Region serves Augusta, Chelsea, Hallowell, Sidney, Waterville and Winslow.

Cruz was commissioned in June 2016 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

People can donate to The Salvation Army relief efforts online at, by calling 800-725-2769 or by mailing checks (designated Hurricane 2017) to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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